Background: The consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak are unprecedented and have been felt by everyone around the world, including people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs). With the development of vaccines, the future is becoming brighter. Vaccines are a key pillar of public health and have been proven to prevent many serious diseases. However, vaccination also raises questions, especially for patients with inflammatory RMDs and/or treated with drugs that influence their immune system.
Objectives: Our aim was to collect safety data among RMD patients receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Methods: The EULAR COVID-19 Vaccination (COVAX) Registry is an observational registry launched on 5 February 2021. Data are entered voluntarily by clinicians or associated healthcare staff; patients are eligible for inclusion if they have an RMD and have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Descriptive statistics are presented.
Results: As of 27 April 2021, 1519 patients were reported to the registry. The majority were female (68%) and above the age of 60 (57%). Mean age was 63 years (SD 16), ranging from 15 to 97 years. A total of 28 countries contributed to the registry, with France (60%) and Italy (13%) as the highest contributors. The majority (91%) had inflammatory RMDs. Inflammatory joint diseases accounted for 51% of cases, connective tissue diseases 19%, vasculitis 16%, other immune mediated inflammatory diseases 4%, and non-inflammatory/mechanical RMDs 9%. The most frequent individual diagnoses were rheumatoid arthritis (30%), axial spondyloarthritis (8%), psoriatic arthritis (8%), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, 7%) and polymyalgia rheumatica (6%). At the time of vaccination, 45% were taking conventional synthetic DMARDs, 36% biological DMARDs, 31% systemic glucocorticoids, 6% other immunosuppressants (azathioprine; mycophenolate; cyclosporine; cyclophosphamide; tacrolimus), and 3% targeted synthetic DMARDs. The most frequent individual DMARDs were methotrexate (29%), TNF-inhibitors (18%), antimalarials (10%) and rituximab (6%). The vaccines administered were: 78% Pfizer, 16% AstraZeneca, 5% Moderna and 1% other/unknown; 66% of cases received two doses and 34% one dose. Mean time from 1st and 2nd dose to case report was 41 days (SD 26) and 26 days (SD 23), respectively. COVID-19 diagnosis after vaccination was reported in 1% (18/1519) of cases. Mean time from first vaccination until COVID-19 diagnosis was 24 days (SD 17). Disease flares were reported by 5% (73/1375) of patients with inflammatory RMDs, with 1.2% (17/1375) classified as severe flares. Mean time from closest vaccination date to inflammatory RMD flare was 5 days (SD 5). The most common flare types were arthritis (35/1375=2.5%), arthralgia (29/1375=2.1%), cutaneous flare (11/1375=0.8%) and increase in fatigue (11/1375=0.8%). Potential vaccine side effects were reported by 31% of patients (467/1519). The majority were typical early adverse events within 7 days of vaccination, namely pain at the site of injection (281/1519=19%), fatigue (171/1519=11%) and headache (103/1519=7%). Organ/system adverse events were reported by 2% (33/1519) but only 0.1% (2/1519) reported severe adverse events, namely a case of hemiparesis in a patient with systemic sclerosis/SLE overlap syndrome (ongoing at the time of reporting), and a case of giant cell arteritis in a patient with osteoarthritis (recovered/resolved without sequelae).
Conclusion: The safety profiles for COVID-19 vaccines in RMD patients was reassuring. Most adverse events were the same as in the general population, they were non-serious and involved short term local and systemic symptoms. The overwhelming majority of patients tolerated their vaccination well with rare reports of inflammatory RMD flare (5%; 1.2% severe) and very rare reports of severe adverse events (0.1%). These initial findings should provide reassurance to rheumatologists and vaccine recipients, and promote confidence in COVID-19 vaccine safety in RMD patients, namely those with inflammatory RMDs and/or taking treatments that influence their immune system.
Acknowledgements: EULAR COVID-19 Task Force; European Reference Network on rare and Complex Connective Tissue and Musculoskeletal Diseases; European Reference Network on Rare Immunodeficiency, Autoinflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases Network; all rheumatologists contributing to the EULAR COVAX Registry.
Disclosure of Interests: Pedro M Machado Consultant of: Abbvie, BMS, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Janssen, MSD, Novartis, Orphazyme, Pfizer, Roche and UCB, all unrelated to this manuscript., Grant/research support from: Orphazyme, unrelated to this manuscript., Speakers bureau: Abbvie, BMS, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Janssen, MSD, Novartis, Orphazyme, Pfizer, Roche and UCB, all unrelated to this manuscript., Saskia Lawson-Tovey: None declared, Kimme Hyrich Grant/research support from: BMS, UCB, and Pfizer, all unrelated to this manuscript., Speakers bureau: Abbvie, Loreto Carmona Consultant of: her institute works by contract for laboratories among other institutions, such as Abbvie Spain, Eisai, Gebro Pharma, Merck Sharp & Dohme España, S.A., Novartis Farmaceutica, Pfizer, Roche Farma, Sanofi Aventis, Astellas Pharma, Actelion Pharmaceuticals España, Grünenthal GmbH, and UCB Pharma, all unrelated to this manuscript., Laure Gossec Grant/research support from: AbbVie, Amgen, BMS, Biogen, Celgene, Gilead, Janssen, Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, Samsung Bioepis, Sanofi-Aventis, UCB, all unrelated to this manuscript., Speakers bureau: Amgen, Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer, Sandoz, Sanofi, Galapagos, all unrelated to this manuscript., Elsa Mateus Grant/research support from: LPCDR received support for specific activities: grants from Abbvie, Novartis, Janssen-Cilag, Lilly Portugal, Sanofi, Grünenthal S.A., MSD, Celgene, Medac, Pharmakern, GAfPA; grants and non-financial support from Pfizer; non-financial support from Grünenthal GmbH, outside the submitted work., Anja Strangfeld Speakers bureau: AbbVie, MSD, Roche, BMS, and Pfizer, all unrelated with this manuscript., BERND RAFFEINER: None declared, Tiphaine Goulenok: None declared, Olilvier Brocq: None declared, Martina Cornalba: None declared, José A Gómez-Puerta Speakers bureau: AbbVie, BMS, GSK, Janssen, Lilly, MSD, Roche and Sanofi., Eric Veillard: None declared, Ludovic Trefond: None declared, Jacques-Eric Gottenberg: None declared, Julien Henry: None declared, Patrick Durez: None declared, Gerd Rüdiger Burmester: None declared, Marta Mosca: None declared, Eric Hachulla: None declared, Hans Bijlsma: None declared, Iain McInnes: None declared, Xavier Mariette Consultant of: BMS, Galapagos, Gilead, Janssen, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, UCB, and grant from Ose, all unrelated to this manuscript.
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